Multilingualism Management at Work: Language Policies, Practices, and Perceptions in German Multinational Corporations. A Case Study.
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Workplaces are crucial sites for language use within society, where language is linked to economic matters and specific organizational frames. When it comes to multinational businesses, communication is often embedded into multilingual contexts. Against this backdrop, it is very remarkable that the “multilingual workplace” has been considered an “underresearched strategic site” (see Roberts, 2007). This thesis accounts for multilingualism as a societal phenomenon and considers the mechanisms of multilingualism and language choice in a particular organizational setting. It is examined how the phenomenon of multilingualism can affect the domain of workplace interaction, and how multilingualism is reflected in the language practices occurring in multinational corporations. From this perspective, an exploratory case study is conducted with employees of four Germany-based multinationals. The semi-structured interviews resulted in a collection of employees’ personal accounts and experiences with multilingualism in the workplace. A qualitative analysis of the data collected revealed employees’ degree of awareness toward language use, their reports on their language practices, their perceptions towards language(s), which functions they ascribe to language, and how multilingualism affects employees’ working lives. The results of this study include a survey on dominant expressions of multilingualism in the workplace that have emerged from the data, particularly the themes of multilingualism and its interplay with migration, group dynamics, motivation, intercultural encounters, and English as a lingua franca. As the study was conducted within Germany-based multinationals, the role of German for professional life within specific corporate contexts is discussed in greater detail. This thesis emphasizes the prominence of current multilingualism in society in order to further the understanding of language in our ever-globalizing world.